If you were to ask me what the hardest part about owning my business is, I’d tell you that managing a remote team is harder than anything else I do.
Yes … it’s harder than increasing sales year-over-year, harder than managing finances and P&L statements, and much harder than giving up most of my personal life.
Managing a remote team takes more than a firm but fair management style — it takes tools. And lots of them.
Here are the five tools we can’t live without as an extremely successful remote team.
Our Remote Team
First, I’ll paint the picture of what a remote team looks like. For us, the B² Crew is made up of seven lovely ladies around the United States.
Our core team, myself (NJ), Ann Marie (MA), Rachel (NY), and Laurie (GA) handle all of our day-to-day operations.
The other three ladies, Meg (TX), Tanya (TX), and Lauren (TX), work part-time or are project based. And then, of course, there’s Dude, our too-cute mascot.
Don’t let all those Texas gals fool you — they’ve never met face-to-face, and Tanya and Meg both started out in NY!
What is a remote team?
Essentially, a virtual or remote team is made up of workers (in our case, contractors) who perform job duties specific to a company and role, and are often described as telecommuters (people who work remotely, though not necessarily from their home).
We don’t have an office; each of our team members works from home. Or Starbucks. Or the local park. Or whatever environment is conducive for getting our work done on any given day.
While there are numerous pros to having a remote team, there are also cons:
- Not everyone is cut out for the fast-paced startup life. Add to that a remote worker life, and finding people who can juggle both is extremely difficult!
- Disseminating information and team communication takes extra effort.
- Creating a unified company culture is limited.
How We Work
As a student of scaling a business, I’ve learned there are three crucial elements to growth:
Processes, or workflows as we sometimes call them, are the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for getting tasks done.
When I was a solopreneur, much of what I did was about figuring out what the step-by-step process was for managing a client’s account.
Once I had a repeatable process, I then used that as a guide for the next client, and so on and so on.
Eventually, and after many iterations, I knew exactly what it took to onboard, manage, and offboard a client account.
Once you have more clients than one person (you) can handle, it’s time to hire people who can take your repeatable processes and … well … repeat them.
When managing a remote team, you have to hire people who you feel you can trust to handle your SOPs with care.
For me, it’s finding people who:
- Are worker bees
- Can be flexible and thrive in a fast-paced environment
- Receive and give constructive criticism well; are eager to build a better mousetrap
- Are extremely detailed oriented and organized
Once you have your processes and your people, adding in tools helps to strengthen the team and run lean.
I’ll outline the five tools we live by and how they help us grow below.
Managing A Remote Team: The MUST-Haves
Basecamp is exactly what it sounds like … because when you’re moving mountains, you need a place for your team and projects to get started.
This is the place where we house everything (and I do mean everything):
- Teams: Internal groupings of team members, like Sales, Operations, or Account Managers.
- Schedules: Upcoming meetings, out of office notifications, or client events.
- Client accounts and/or projects: Specific to each client; only the involved team members have access to the project or client area.
- Client communication & feedback: Includes approvals and feedback from clients so we have a log of our communication and progress (only included with Basecamp Clientside).
*We used to use Trello (free!) when we were smaller, but we outgrew it as the team and our business needs grew.
GoToMeeting is our go-to (pun intended) for both internal and client meetings. Since there are often multiple people on a meeting and we like to share screens or video, we’ve found this is the best solution (and isn’t as buggy as Skype).
This is also how we hold our weekly Level 10 meetings (a vital process for managing a remote team).
Though there are many tools for file sharing (like Google Docs), we’ve found that Dropbox fits our needs best. And now that they’ve released Paper, we’re even more excited.
With HubStaff, it’s easier to understand:
- When your team is working
- Activity levels
- Scheduling and timesheets
Plus it integrates with some of our other tools, like Basecamp and Quickbooks.
Nice-To-Have Remote Team Tools
5) HubSpot CRM
Technically, I’m the entire Sales Department.
However, sometimes Ann Marie (our Advertising Strategist) assists with sales for advertising clients.
Since it’s just the two of us and we don’t want to spend a lot of unnecessary money while running lean (we used to pay hundreds of dollars for Infusionsoft, but don’t anymore), we’ve found this is an easy tool for us to collaborate on — and it’s free!
As we continue to grow, I know free won’t be enough. But for now, I’ll remain the Goldilocks of CRMs and continue to test them out until we find the one that’s just right for our size company.
Tell Us About Your Team
I consider myself one lucky duck to be able to work with the talented ladies who make up the B² Crew. And as a business owner in the thick of scaling, I’m so incredibly curious about teamwork and how businesses grow.
If you’re so inclined, drop us a note below and tell us how your team works well — remote or not!Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community